Alumni Spotlight: Howard Coopersmith '75 Geology

Howard Coopersmith’s Treasure Hunt for Diamonds
Not everyone can have a job title that sounds like it was pulled from an Indiana Jones movie. But, Fort Collins resident Howard Coopersmith has spent his career traveling the globe on a quest for the rarest and most amazing mineral in the world - diamonds.

Diamond mining expert Howard Coopersmith shows off two Colorado Diamond rings. Also pictured is kimberlite, an igneous rock that is best known for sometimes containing diamonds.
Renowned as one of the worlds most respected diamond mining experts, Coopersmith is a Registered Professional Geologist who consults to explorers, miners, global engineering consultancies and the financial industry on diamond deposits and the diamond market.
An alumnus of Colorado State University’s Geology program in the Warner College of Natural Resources, Coopersmith didn’t always know his passion or science would turn in to a career hunting for diamonds.
“I always read treasure hunting books as a child, and vividly remember Superman squeezing a piece of coal to make a diamond,” said Coopersmith. “It doesn’t really work that way in nature, but exploring for diamonds is like a treasure hunt.”
But treasure hunts are hard work. There are only a handful of advanced diamond projects worldwide, and only about 30 major diamond mines in all of history – making it a very challenging industry. 

Originally from California, Coopersmith says his career path was just about being in the right time and place.

"In 1971, by chance, I ended up working in a biochemistry lab at CSU, and fresh out of high school I started reading through the CSU Catalog. I decided to apply for admission - it was a great decision!" said Coopersmith. " I knew I would major in a science and always thought it would be physics. However, Geology caught my eye and I thought it would satisfy my cravings not only for science but also for the mountains and travel and field work."

The first local diamonds were discovered just north of Fort Collins by a fellow graduate student as Coopersmith was choosing his master’s thesis project in 1975.
No relationship to the Coopersmith Pub and Brewing family – he gets that question all the time - Coppersmith’s proudest achievement is here in Colorado. He is part of the CSU research team responsible for the discovery of Colorado Diamonds and went on to lead the commercial development of the Colorado diamond deposits.
“This was the first time in the world that diamonds were branded by origin,” said Coopersmith. “People were so happy to buy a diamond from their beloved state of Colorado, and I still have people come up to me to show off their Colorado Diamond. They are as proud as I am.”  

Howard Coopersmith with about $10 million in diamonds from a southern African mine.

Coopersmith was supported in his graduate studies by a Canadian mining company for whom he was fortunate enough to later open a Fort Collins office. He then moved to a new diamond start up as a subsidiary of an Australian mining company, again setting up shop in Fort Collins.

Evaluating and eventually developing and mining a kimberlite deposit for diamonds along the Colorado-Wyoming state line provided significant advanced diamond industry expertise of a kind that few geologists get to experience. This led to many consulting assignments across Canada, South America, Africa, Europe, and most recently the Middle East. 

"Many people were influential in my career, as this specialized knowledge is not found in courses or books," said Coopersmith. "At CSU, my advisor Professor Malcolm McCallum instilled rigorous fundamentals of geology into my curriculum and introduced me to the fascinating world of diamonds."

When he is not traveling the world looking for diamonds, Coopersmith enjoys traveling with his family, hiking and reading. He is also Chair of the Friends of the Colorado State University Libraries, which produces a popular author series free to the public. 

Posted on Feb. 10, 2014 by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   
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